Coventry City's exciting eleven-game run without defeat in league games came to an end on Sunday at Bramall Lane in disappointing circumstances. The result was a travesty and the Blades could not believe their luck in finishing the game with eleven men, avoiding a goal when the ball clearly crossed the line and scoring the only goal with a deflection off Billy Sharp's shoulder. The Sky Blues had by far the better of the game and should have won comfortably.
As I have previously written, the run of 11 games, six wins and five draws, equals the run in the autumn of 2001 when Roland Nilsson took over from Gordon Strachan, and that was the best run since Jimmy Hill's 'Invincibles' in the 1966-67 Second Division promotion campaign. During that 25-game run City ground out a lot of results without playing well and after Christmas there were few attractive games. They won only four away games, drawing eight but at home they were unbeaten with eleven wins and two draws. Older fans will remember the backs to the wall draws at Rotherham, Crystal Palace and Bristol City and the scraped home wins over Norwich, Preston and Carlisle. My point is, I don't expect to see City play champagne soccer every week between now and the end of the season in order to win promotion.
Before today's game with Oldham, City, coincidentally, have 25 games remaining in League One and a repeat of the famous 1967 run would give them 15 wins and 10 draws for a total of 94 points and ample for automatic promotion. The fans just have to pray that they don't have one of their post-Christmas slumps.
After Billy Sharp scored the winning goal on Sunday Benjamin Lipman enquired if Sharp was close to matching Richard Cresswell's scoring record against the Sky Blues. Sharp's record is good – five in seven games – but Cresswell has scored nine against us since 2001. Neither player is likely to overhaul the record holder, a certain Alan Shearer who netted 18 league and cup goals against us for three different clubs between 1991 and 2005. Other deadly strikers against City include Tony Cottee (14), Ian Rush (14) and Bob Latchford (13).
There was some cheer in the City camp last weekend – on Friday night the youth team beat Premier League Stoke City to advance into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup for the second season running. It was the first victory over a Premier League side since 2003 when City beat Everton in round three before going out of the competition to Nottm Forest. The scorer of the only goal of the night at Leamington FC's Harbury Road ground was Bassala Sambou who has now netted all seven of City's goals in the competition.
He has already overtaken James Maddison's haul of six goals in last season's competition and a host of other City youngsters who have also netted six in one season including:
Bob Allen (1967-68), Trevor Smith (twice in 1969-70 and 1970-71), Steve Livingstone (1986-87), Andrew Ducros (1994-95) and Gary McSheffrey (twice in 1998-99 & 1999-00).
Only Tom English has scored more than Sambou. In 1978-79 the Sky Blues started in the qualifying rounds and English scored nine goals in ten cup games to set the record. Sambou has scored seven in three!Tom English
Interestingly, of the six-in-a-season scorers only McSheffrey and Livingstone really achieved their potential and some would argue only Gary did.
Mick Samuel sent me an email this week to tell me about the passing of Eve Shirley. Eve and her late husband Jim ran the Sky Blue hostel for young players in Catherine Street during the time that Noel Cantwell was manager in the late 1960s. Many of City's outstanding youth players of that era would have been looked after by Eve and Jim. Eve passed away in Newquay, Cornwall, aged 91.